It’s been less than a week since Southwest, American, and United Airlines pushed back 737 MAX flights in their scheduling. Now, Icelandair will follow suit and withhold the Boeing 737 MAX from its flight schedules through to the end of October. These scheduling changes are symptomatic of the ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding the return of the 737 MAX into passenger service.
According to Airfleets.net, Icelandair has five MAX 8s and one MAX 9 in its fleet. None of these aircraft are flying as the worldwide grounding drags on. According to ATW Online, only two of the 737-8s are owned by the airline with the remaining aircraft being leased. Icelandair has another three -8s and six-9s on order.
Filling the gap
In an attempt to minimize passenger impact and follow through on passenger bookings, Icelandair has been operating five leased aircraft for the summer season. This includes:
- Two wet-lease Boeing 767s
- One temporarily acquired 757
- Two Bombardier Q400s from domestic carrier Air Iceland Connect
ATW Online continues by saying that the leasing agreements of two of the above-mentioned aircraft will expire at the end of August. The other three are to be in operation until the end of September. Icelandair is currently working to extend the leasing agreement of one aircraft through to the end of October.
Trying to meet capacity
With the above changes, the total seat capacity for the Icelandic flag carrier will decrease by 4% between Sept. 16th and Oct. 26th in comparison to earlier estimates.
Meanwhile, the number of passengers to and from Iceland has been increasing. Apparently, the carrier has been transporting a record number of passengers to Iceland so far this summer: 354,000 passengers in May and June 2019 compared to 257,000 in May and June 2018.
This equates to a 38% rise. Furthermore, the number of bookings by passengers traveling to Iceland between July and October has increased over 20% compared to the same timeframe in 2017, the airline said.
Some of this rise in bookings can possibly be attributed to the collapse of WOW Air. WOW Air held nearly 30% of the Icelandic flight market before its demise.
Is November too optimistic?
The Boeing 737 MAX is now in its fourth month of grounding. Boeing has been working hard with the FAA to find a fix to the issue. In May, there was much more optimism that a fix would be ready sometime during the summer. Those hopes are now long gone.
Now there is a small chance that the Boeing 737 MAX could remain on the ground until 2020. Indeed, anonymous FAA sources via Bloomberg recently reported that the latest scenario suggests it won’t be flying again until 2020. Independent of this news, Belgium’s civil aviation authority has proactively imposed a ban until 2020 itself.
Some people think that once re-certification comes through, the MAX will be one of the safest aircraft to fly. What do you think?
We reached out to Icelandair in hopes of an official comment. We haven’t heard back since publishing the article but will update this story if we hear back!